Restoration of St Andrew’s Church, Wickhambreaux

Restoration of St Andrew’s Church, Wickhambreaux

Specialist lead roof repair and conservation of a Grade I listed church within a tight timescale.
Restoration Works to St Andrew's Church Wickhambreaux
July 2023

Restoration of a Grade I listed church

St Andrew’s Church is located at the heart of Wickhambreaux - an outstanding, quaint rural village near Canterbury. The remarkable Grade I listed Church was originally built in the 13th Century and stands in The Green, surrounded by the churchyard. The area is also home to a number of gorgeous listed buildings, including a picturesque pub.

Tourists visit the historic church building to admire the art deco-stained painted Nave ceiling and the amazing East window depicting the Annunciation (unusually comprising opaque glass to add to the dramatic scene). The Church is built of coursed flint and stone with a tiled and lead roofs.

The Church has needed extensive repairs for 20 years - leaking in the North Aisle gutter over the organ has been a persistent problem. Securing funding has been problematic.

The brief for works to the roof

Andrew Clague, of James Clague Architects, has been the building’s inspecting architect since 1985. From the start, he recommended the replacement of the lead roof to the North Aisle was a priority, following an earlier phase of high level stonework repair.

The North Aisle roof suffered from substantial lead ‘creep’ and the gutter leaked in extreme conditions. Poorly laid lead sheet creeps down the roof slope and tears at the nail fixings over time.

Specifically, we advised the reprofiling and repairing of the timber deck in order to better provide falls for rainwater and to be sure it supports the lead sheets. We also specified the restoration of the North Aisle and other low-level stonework and masonry.

The estimated cost for these works was £155,000. The Parochial Church Council (PCC) was responsible for the fundraising and did not have much luck until 2021, when, unexpectedly, the National Churches Trust granted 80% of the repair costs.

There was a challenging condition to meet if the grant offer was accepted. The works needed to be carried out within three months - between January and March 2022 - so the works had to be carried out very quickly.

Gaining DAC consent

Thankfully, before the grant was awarded, Chairman Peter Terrill had already obtained the Diocesan Advisory Committee’s (DAC) consent. Andrew Clague’s well-thought-out specifications and drawings were approved very quickly and without query. This meant that everything was ready for the works to begin soon after the grant was given.

In the meantime, Chairman Peter Terrill managed to secure the remaining 20% of funding. A long-standing constructor who JCA admire and often work with, Coleman Contractors Ltd, was appointed to carry out the works.

The Grade I listed Church repair works

A number of eroded Rag and Caen dressed stones needed repair, together with lime mortar pointing and a new louvre in oak in the Belfry Chamber.

JCA specified reprofiling the deck and the parapet gutter to create adequate steps at all junctions. A state-of-the-art digital laser survey enabled precision measurement and construction of the deck and parapet. The original widely spaced gutter outlets were, in fact, just 5mm out of level. The joints in the lead gutter had steps smaller than 10mm, whereas they need to be 50mm to avoid leaks. Sandcast lead was used throughout. The reprofiling was skilfully achieved by Colmans and welted roll ends were provided.

Additionally, JCA supervised repairs to the existing rainwater system and the replacement of copings in the North Aisle.

In the West Elevation, the Tower’s stonework was worn. JCA specified the Rag quoin stone piecing repairs and replacements to the Tower. The yellow ones were repaired by a piecing stone method, rather than whole stone replacement, to preserve as much original fabric as possible.

Coleman Contractors Ltd followed Andrew Clague’s specifications in every detail and carried out the works to the highest standards.

The specified internal redecoration to the North Aisle could not, however, be completed as the workers discovered a previously unknown wall painting.

The result

After 20 years, St Andrew’s Church’s North Aisle does not leak anymore. The stonework repair across the building led to some persistent damp patches in the Vestry to dr,y which is remarkable. The 13th Century Church fabric remains repaired entirely in keeping true to its place in history.

Unfortunately, there is only one Kent Ragstone quarry and there was a delay in the delivery of stones (due to other ongoing grant aided projects) needed to complete the works. For this reason, a small part of the grant was not paid. The Ragstone fixing was successfully completed in June 2022 (after the grant period had expired).

While the works were being completed, the team on site discovered Medieval war wall paintings in the North Aisle. These are estimated to date back to the 17th century which is extraordinary. The PCC intends to restore these when funding is available.

The client’s feedback

The PCC was very happy with the accurate specification provided by JCA and how quickly JCA achieved DAC approval, given the need to move so quickly to obtain the very generous grant. The additional budget control service that was provided was deemed excellent and essential for such a budget-sensitive project. Restoring listed churches and other listed buildings has been a substantial part of Andrew Clague’s’ portfolio for 45 years.

The PCC has commented that everyone involved worked flexibly and got involved very quickly. Moreover, the works were completed to “a very high standard”, within budget, and met an exceptionally tight programme.

James Clague Architects are very pleased with the result and are currently expanding their historic buildings portfolio with projects similar to this one.

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